By Suzanne Plunkett
On the outside, Angels The Costumiers is a drab grey warehouse bordered on one side by an industrial estate and on another by an artery of railway lines ferrying weary commuters to the endless suburbs of northwest London. Inside, it’s pure Hollywood.
As the world’s largest supplier of outfits to cinema, stage and television, Angels is home to more than eight miles of clothing rails — a vast and dizzying maze in which it’s simultaneously possible to lose yourself and stumble upon a piece of movie history.
“This here is our £60,000-pound rail,” says Jeremy Angel, a creative manager at the costumier, gesturing to a rack on which hangs hundreds of drab-looking ecclesiastical garments. “It’s where we found the Obi-Wan Kenobi robe.”
The tale of how staff rediscovered the gown worn by actor Alec Guinness in Star Wars is a favorite at Angels, neatly summing up both the size of the collection and the gems potentially lost within. Kenobi’s cape was regularly rented out as an ordinary monk’s robe for movies and costume parties until it was recognized by a member of staff then auctioned off for £59,000.
Angel, one of the sixth generation of his family involved in the business, escorted me around the warehouse as it began to offer rare public tours. Among the tour highlights will be some of the outfits that have garnered Angels no fewer than 33 Academy Awards for films such as “Cleopatra” (1963), “Star Wars” (1977), “Titanic” (1997) and “Alice in Wonderland” (2011).